Directed by: Steven Kaman
Starring: Mark Pellegrino, James Lew, Nancy Kwan, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, Richard Norton, Gerald Okamura, and Kato Kaelin
"One man's soul...another man's body...an invincible combination"
You'd think that some sort of moviemaking police would exist, if to do nothing else than to stop the director of Total Force (1997), Steven Kaman, from ever directing another movie again after that abomination. Sadly, the man was allowed to continue his crimes against filmdom with Soul of the Avenger - a movie so shoddy it's an embarrassment to shods everywhere. I don't even care that that's not a real word. It's going to take some out-of-the-box thinking to convey just how terrible 'Avenger really is.
It appears that a man named Kaan Woo (Lew) is escaping his dark past, having been involved with a cult of brown shroud-wearing, druid-like monk warriors that have mystical powers. He apparently wanted out, because their evil queen, Ling Li (Kwan) has sent her servant, Sir Xavier (Norton) to do her bidding - i.e., eliminate Woo. During a battle with the dark forces, Woo's soul is transferred into the body of homeless drunkard Earl Stockman (Pellegrino). Now this bum is as surprised as anybody to find out he has mystical kung-fu abilities. Now "Superbum" must take on the evil cult and win the day.
Now, on paper, this is not a half-bad idea for an action/martial arts film. Especially if you load the movie up with names fans are familiar with, such as Lew, Norton, Okamura, Urquidez, etc. But it's executed so terribly. Sad, really. Starting from the jump with a junky look to it, and adding a bunch of characters constantly flipping and jumping with sped-up or slowed-down action in what must have been some sort of attempt to have a Hong-Kong feel but failing, it's not exactly a recipe for success. Most of the acting and so-called "plotting" are amateurish at best, and you throw in some silly editing tricks and jumps and constant "Dutch" or cocked/tilted camera angles, the viewer, simply wanting some action entertainment, quickly gets a headache.
The film is filled with pseudo-mystical mumbo jumbo, such as "the circle of the spirit's form", (the transfer of the soul), a secret green drink called "Ching Wa", Gerald Okamura as an ancient priest, and Benny The Jet in a brown cloak.
Norton does his best as one of the baddies, but even he can't save this trainwreck. It's unfortunate to see one of our Hall Of Heroes guys slumming like this. Imagine going from his early Hong Kong classics to this tripe. Mark Pellegrino as the main character also tries admirably against the current, but the raging waters of crapulence were too strong for him as well. Pellegrino truly missed his calling as a 90's "Gen-X" actor. He could have been hangin' with James LeGros and Stephen Dorff at the comic book store being ironic and edgy while slacking off to the max. Instead he was here, hangin' with...you've waited long enough for it...KATO KAELIN! Yes, that talentless pal of known murderer OJ Simpson here has a small role as a man named "Melom" who is some sort of gangster trying to get info about Kaan Woo. He really should have played the Earl Stockman role that Pellegrino got. He could have imbued the role with his Kaeliny charm. Instead they got someone who looks somewhat like him to confuse the already-confused viewers. On the bright side, Kaelin does some martial arts moves.
Soul of the Avenger tries to be stylish, but all the fast motion and other tricks just hurt your eyes. They must have been trying to plaster over the lack of plot, and all the other things that this movie is lacking. Avoid Soul of the Avenger, unless you are really a masochistic Richard Norton superfan.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty